Budding scribes document folklore
The book on sacred groves.
KOZHIKODE: Journalism students in Thiruvangoor Higher Secondary School here have documented folklore surrounding "Kavus" (sacred groves) in Koyilandy taluk.
Their effort has yielded a handy volume, Arulappad, which was released at the school recently.
Reading the book is a journey through time, examining and analysing how folklore traditions surrounding sacred groves have stood the test of time.
Ratheesh Kaliyadan, Editor of Arulappad, says, "documentation of folklore was also part of an initiative to give life to the concept of citizens' journalism."
"The [students'] assignments of reporting and editing have been materialised through the project of compiling data by the student groups and bringing it out in book form, while, at the same time, providing opportunities for extracurricular activities."
He said many folklore traditions were in the process of being lost, and the publication was an attempt to document these societal traditions. While data existed on some traditions, no information was available on certain Theyyams of the lowest sections of society, he said.
Documentation involved painstaking inquiry into the stories and folk histories surrounding each grove. Songs relating to festivals of deities and stage details such as the costume worn by the oracles during the "Thira" festival have also been documented.
The fact that each "Thira" is a dialogue between the past and present is highlighted. Thirty-one gods and goddesses have been analysed as part of the documentation.
Students carried out the enquiry and documentation in groups and singly.
Raghavan Payyanad, Director, Centre for Folklore Studies, Calicut University, has written an informative introduction to the book.
Arulappad gives details of the lore surrounding deities such as Vettakkoru Magan, Bhairavi, Chamundi and Kuttichathan.
An interesting aspect of folk deities of sacred groves is that most of them are subaltern heroes.
Some of them are depicted as resisting the oppressive feudal system. Valiamuthappan, for instance, is one such hero.
The book highlights the fact that folklore has multiple dimensions.
On the surface, it is just stories passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth. Some of these are presented on stages, and on going deeper, their multiple dimensions are revealed.
The students' enquiry reveals the existence of a large number of sacred groves in Kerala, with distinct history and social relevance.
It provides ample material for serious academic research on folklore and understanding the essential discourse.
THE HINDU,Online edition of India's National NewspaperMonday, Jan 08, 2007